The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications
415-585-6404 or 202-215-4205

10 Years After Institute of Medicine Recognized Medical Marijuana, Policy Catches Up With Science

Big Progress on State, Federal Levels; MPP's Rob Kampia to Debate at Cato Institute Forum March 17


As the 10th anniversary of the Institute of Medicine's historic report recognizing marijuana's value as a medicine approaches, medical marijuana patients and advocates are celebrating remarkable progress that has accelerated rapidly in recent months. A decade after the report's release on March 17, 1999, medical marijuana supporters see policy finally beginning to match scientific reality.

In late February, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that President Obama's campaign promise to end Drug Enforcement Administration attacks on state medical marijuana laws "is now American policy." In November, Michigan voters passed a medical marijuana law by the largest margin ever racked up by such an initiative, and medical marijuana bills are moving steadily forward in legislatures across the country, including Minnesota, Illinois and New Jersey.

After California voters passed the nation's first effective medical marijuana law in November, 1996, the Clinton administration asked the Institute of Medicine to review existing research and report on potential medical uses of marijuana. The report, "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," while cautiously and carefully written, clearly acknowledged marijuana's therapeutic value for some seriously ill patients, stating, "Nausea, appetite loss, pain, and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting and all can be mitigated by marijuana."

The report acknowledged the drawbacks of smoking and urged creation of a "rapid-onset, nonsmoked cannabinoid delivery system," but added, "In the meantime, there are patients with debilitating symptoms for whom smoked marijuana might provide relief." Studies published since 1999 have verified that marijuana vaporizers provide just the sort of rapid, nonsmoked delivery the IOM suggested.

Until recently, federal officials ignored the findings, prompting co-author Dr. John Benson to tell the New York Times in 2006 that the government "loves to ignore our report. ... They would rather it never happened."

"For 10 long years the federal government waged a war against science, and against the sick and suffering, but the Obama administration has clearly signaled that this insane war on patients is going to end," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "With medical marijuana bills advancing nationwide, it's clear a new day has dawned."

Kampia will join University of California researcher Dr. Donald Abrams, whose studies have further documented marijuana's medical value, and opponent Robert Dupont for what should be a lively discussion of the report's 10th anniversary hosted by the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., on March 17 at noon. For reservations for this free event, call 202-789-5229. The Cato Institute is located at 1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

Studies published since the IOM report was released have confirmed that medical marijuana can safely relieve neuropathic pain, a particularly hard to treat type of pain that afflicts millions with HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and other illnesses. Other studies have shown that use of medical marijuana to relieve nausea and other drug side effects is associated with better adherence to life-saving treatment regimens for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is the number one organization in the U.S. legalizing cannabis. We passed 13 medical cannabis laws in the past 15 years, and we ran winning campaigns in eight of the 11 legalization states. No organization in the movement has changed as many cannabis laws, impacted as many patients and consumers, created as many new markets, or done more to end cannabis prohibition in the U.S. than MPP.